The Film Music of Thomas Newman
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
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Silva Screen Records, in its recreations of film music newly recorded, usually by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, here turns its attention to an A-list Hollywood composer who emerged on that list in the 1990s, despite a pedigree that might have placed him there earlier, Thomas Newman. Newman, son of renowned Hollywood composer Alfred Newman and, hence, a member of the extensive Newman family of Hollywood composers, scored twin Academy Award nominations with Little Women and The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. As this collection of themes from 12 of his films and TV work covering the years 1994-2006 demonstrates, Newman has tended to work on mainstream, high-prestige Hollywood projects, collaborating with such perennial Oscar candidates as actors George Clooney, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Spacey, and directors Ron Howard, Robert Redford, and Sam Mendes. He has tended to provide basically two different kinds of scores. As might be expected, he is steeped in traditional Hollywood orchestral music, and he can write it on demand. Annotator Michael Beek accurately points out that the first two tracks, from The Good German, are excellent examples, cues that could have come from the pen of his father. But Newman often tends toward a pastoral, wistful tone in his orchestral music, using slow tempos and minor-key melodies to give it a sad, stately feeling. That inclines toward the second type of score he likes to write, short, quirky themes of only a few notes, often played on instruments rarely used for lead melodies, and accompanied by striking percussion. His Academy Award-nominated work for American Beauty (recreated here by London Music Works in the tracks "Plastic Bag Theme" and "Dead Already") is a good example, but the best and most characteristic of his efforts in this area is his theme for the television series Six Feet Under, in which an oboe, here played by Ilid Jones, interacts with percussion and isolated keyboard chords.